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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Hawaii back-to-school spending reels under recessionís impact

Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Hanany Areola and her son, Jeff, review his school supply list while shopping at Fisher Hawaii. Jeff will be entering the fourth grade at Kalihi Kai Elementary School.

KENT NISHIMURA | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Total U.S. back-to-school spending


Average per-family back-to-school outlay


Average spent on back-to-school electronics


New school footwear bill for average family


Clothing and accessories


Estimated average to be spent on school supplies

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With four kids in school, Joni Chin is used to costly back-to-school shopping trips, but she said this summer she's going to try to cap it at just more than $100.

"I'm trying to spend less because we have so many children," said the Kaimuki mother while maneuvering a shopping cart through the packed aisles at Fisher Hawaii. "We try to recycle, but as kids, they tend to destroy everything by the end of the year."

Chin, whose children will begin classes Thursday along with an estimated 178,000 other public school students in Hawai'i, is not the only one planning to limit spending.

Even though prices are up slightly this year, the National Retail Federation predicted that the average American family will spend less on back-to-school merchandise this summer than last year. If they do, it would mark the first time spending has declined since 2005.

The average U.S. family with students in kindergarten through 12th grade is expected to spend about $82 this year on school supplies and $297 on back-to-school clothing, shoes and accessories. Overall, the federation expects Americans to spend $17.4 billion, about $2.6 billion less than last year.

The poll of 8,367 back-to-school shoppers found that 56 percent will be hunting for sales more often, 49 percent plan to spend less overall and 40 percent plan to use more coupons, with many citing the state of the economy as a reason.


Recycling helps some parents keep costs in line.

Maunawili Elementary School teacher Kimberlee Greer, whose daughter will be starting first grade at Trinity Christian School, said she stockpiles the school supplies her students try to throw away.

"We're using other people's old pencil boxes," Greer said with a laugh, as she stood in an aisle at Fisher, trying to figure out the purpose of the "watercolor pencils" Trinity had requested. "We're going to use a lot from last year, too."

Still, Greer said she'll probably spend about $150 on teaching supplies in addition to the $40 to $50 she plans to spend on her daughter.

"Maunawili always just asks for the bare minimum," she said of their school supplies lists. However, she noted that about 30 percent of kids at Maunawili will still show up without supplies because families can't afford them.

Parents shopping this week at Longs Drugs and Fisher Hawaii, which devoted its entire center aisle to huge boxes of composition books, Elmer's glue, folders and pens of every color, said they planned on buying most everything the schools asked for.

"It kind of hurts because I'm a single mother," said Donna Mina, a mother of two who planned on spending about $100 at Longs. "But they need it, so I don't mind buying it for them."


Most schools ask for a list of supplies that fill a whole page, and costs have inched up since last year. A pair of scissors, box of crayons, composition book, highlighter and roll of tape cost $5.13 at Fisher Hawaii last year. The same items cost $5.67 at Fisher this year.

Waipahu resident Carol Alipio said she's also noticed that the school supplies lists have gotten a little longer.

"We're spending a little bit more than what we'd normally spend on school supplies," said Alipio, with a daughter entering 11th grade and a son entering fifth. "They're asking us for a little bit more than what they used to."

While discount stores were still the most popular school shopping destination, the National Retail Federation said 18 percent more people were planning to shop at drugstores than last year.

Another mother of four, Kalihi resident Marilyn Dumot, said she looks for sales at Longs, and 'Ewa Beach resident Kailene Dela Cruz said she looks out for Longs' Sunday ads to help her little brother shop for school supplies.

"It just depends on what kind of deals and where you're going to go," Dela Cruz said.

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